The Minority Report…

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. –Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Close your eyes (figuratively, of course) as I tell you a heartwarming story.

It’s been a long day at the office, and you are looking forward to a quiet evening at home, perhaps watching TV or playing with your kids. Your wife isn’t due home for another hour, so you decide to surprise her by making dinner and having it ready for her when she does come home. You pull in to your garage, shut of the car, and are preparing to take off your shoes before you enter your home when you notice something a little odd. Your toolbox looks, well, not right. You are fairly meticulous with your tools and such, so you think it’s a little odd that the drawers aren’t quite closed all of the way. Naturally, you take a look, but notice nothing unusual besides the drawers being slightly ajar, so you close them and then return to your entryway.

As you turn the knob, you step forward and thud! bump your nose and knee on the door that has not opened. That’s also a little odd because you never lock the garage entryway door, since the garage door is closed when you leave for work. Yet, today it is locked, and you can’t remember locking it. You make a mental note to ask your wife later, and then unlock the door and go inside. As you go about your business making dinner and –extra credit –clean up the dishes as you go along so you have less to take care of later, you soon forget about the earlier oddities and start to relax.

Dinner is excellent, as your appreciative wife lauds your thoughtfulness and efforts, and you are warmed that even the kids think so, as they eat their dinners with no complaints about not liking it or that it’s not like “when Mommy cooks”. Then, there is a knock at the door. You get up to answer the door and, lo and behold, there are five uniformed police officers and two men in suits standing on your doorstep. You ask if you can help them, but they swoop into your house before you can get the question out, talking about you being under arrest and then you feel the cuffs on your wrists. Your wife is shocked, but is so stunned, nothing manages to come out of her mouth.

The whirlwind of activity lasts for what seems like an eternity, but in reality, it is only a couple of minutes. Soon, you are in the back of a police cruiser on your way to jail. Only then are you told that you are under arrest under suspicion of being a terrorist sympathizer. You were linked, unequivocally and inextricably you are told, to evidence that was found at the scene of a proclaimed terrorist attack that killed many people and injured even more. No Miranda rights are read to you, no questions of “who are you working for” or “who do you work with” are asked. It’s an eerily quiet ride to the jailhouse, after the original explanation as to why you are sitting where you are at the moment.

Now, let me flesh out the story in the factual accounting for what I’ve just fictionally put forth. A lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, from Portland, Oregon, was arrested at his humble law office under suspicion that he was linked to the Madrid train bombings. A single fingerprint of a right index finger had been matched to his that were on file from his days as a commissioned officer in the US Army. This fingerprint, which was sent along with nineteen others taken from the scenes of the bombings, was analyzed initially by the Spanish National Police, who were unable to find a match in their database and were interested to see if the FBI could come up with a match. Well, the good ol’ FBI, being the crack unit they are, sure did. And then they told the SNP that they had found a match and had a named suspect.

Okay, now here is where I throw in a plot twist. Mr. Mayfield is Muslim. He worships faithfully at a mosque in Portland, had his law office listed in what was admittedly a “Muslim Yellow Pages” service for Muslim-owned/operated businesses in the Portland area, and he was married to an Egyptian Muslim woman. The FBI, upon matching the latent print to Brandon Mayfield and discovering that he was Muslim, then had the print “verified”, if that is how you could even term the biased examinations that followed the initial matching, by an agent that had been reprimanded on more than one occasion for misidentifying prints. The other verification process was performed by an agent who was told to verify the print matched that of the American Muslim Brandon Mayfield as determined already by the initial, bungling agent. So, he or she already had a biased view of the print because their superior, or at least fellow agent, had determined that it indeed matched Mr. Mayfield’s print close enough to get him in the ballpark of being a suspect. The fact that he was Muslim also played into the “confirmation” process. I have no doubt.

Now, here’s the other exciting plot twist, my boys and girls. Brandon Mayfield, being a good Muslim and a practicing lawyer, had represented another Muslim fellow who later became known as one of the Portland Seven. They were a group of seven Muslim jihadists who had attempted to travel to Afghanistan via Pakistan to fight with the Al-Qaida and Taliban jihadists against US troops. They were arrested and detained before they could reach Afghanistan because they could not get visas quick enough from Pakistan to allow passage into the safe (for them) country. The individual in question, Jeffrey Battle, had been represented by Mayfield in a child-custody battle.

As Molly Ivins puts it, in her book The Bill of Wrongs, Mr. Mayfield had become a victim of the “halal version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Mayfield is suspect because he associated with individuals who associated with individuals who associated with other individuals.” A good way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is, “Brandon Mayfield went to jail on a religion rap.” Now, let me state that while fundamentalist Muslims are at the heart of all of the conflict both in Iraq and Afghanistan, the majority of Muslims are peace-loving. Just as every organized religion has had its own part in history of backing idealistic viewpoints with cruelty, inhumanity, violence, and corruption, we see that the majority of the ones still around today are filled with peace-loving, pillars-of-community, law-abiding folks. You can hate the Muslims, if you want, but I do not. I abhor what is being done in the name of Islam, as I abhor what was done in the name of Christianity in the Middle Ages. Does the Spanish Inquisition ring a bell, anyone? But I digress…as usual.

So, what we have here is an American Muslim arrested and sent to jail because his fingerprint was determined to match that of a print found on an item used in a terrible terrorist event 3600 miles away in another country. The “admission of guilt”  for Mr. Mayfield was put into place by our wonderful justice system looking at his background and discovering that Mr. Mayfield had once represented someone else who later became a legitimate threat to the security of Americans abroad in a child custody case. Therefore, that means that Mr. Mayfield was a conspirator and must be the one who’s print was found on evidence in Spain. See where I’m going with this? Effectively, the authorities, and I use the term loosely, arrested Mayfield not because his print matched the one found in Madrid, but because he was a Muslim with a negligible tie to another Muslim who later was found to be an extremist. A religious rap. No ands, ifs, or buts about it.

Now, my tie-in with the title of this entry and the material enclosed within is this: When a government can make an arrest of any of its citizens because a crime may ensue, not due to any activity in particular of the arrestee’s part, but just because the arrester thinks it may occur, is a violation of our rights protecting us from unlawful search and seizure. A future blog will go over the particulars of how the Fourth Amendment came to be, but for now just understand this…If you get pulled over for speeding, and then the officer asks, “May I search your car?”, you have the right to say NO. You have the RESPONSIBILITY to say NO. If you feel that you must acquiesce, you can direct where you want the officer to search (i.e. the trunk only, or the glove box only, etc.). Did you know that? I bet not many of you did. The Fourth Amendment affords us the right, as long as there is no reason for the enforcing officer to search. Now, what is a reason for search? If you get pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), the officer may search the vehicle and your person, lawfully. If you are pulled over for speeding, he/she may not. If you just led the cops on a four-county car chase, you will be searched. And it will be well within the rights of the officers to do so, because you may have been doing such activity as a result of chemical influence.

The cops don’t like you, Joe Citizen, to question their authority. You are to implicitly trust those that wear the uniform and carry the badge, according to the modern thought of law enforcement. I’m telling you that if you go around mindlessly obeying everyone that states they have authority over you, you, my friend, are in for a very bleak existence. I’m not saying to tell the cop to shove it if he asks to search your car, enter your home, or whatever. Oh, yeah, you don’t have to let them into your home, either, unless there is reasonable evidence that a crime has taken place inside. That’s a whole ‘nother wad o’ gum, as a buddy of mine likes to say.

Let me end this with this…KNOW YOUR RIGHTS AND EXERCISE THEM. You can’t get into trouble by exercising your rights, unless you do it wrong. If you know your rights thoroughly, though, it’s hard to exercise them the wrong way. It’s only when you start twisting them to fit your own selfish desires do you end up in trouble. Just as when the nation starts asserting its own rights for its own selfish desires with no thought as to whether or not the Constitutional Amendments allow it.

“You can’t trade your freedom for security. Because, in the end, you lose both.” -Brandon Mayfield, The Oregonian.

~ by kyodan75 on May 23, 2010.

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